Starry night: Ashland greats from 50s battle in Tomcat Shootout

ASHLAND, Ky. – The 1950s Ashland Tomcats not only rocked around the clock, they rocked around the court in the inaugural Tomcat Shootout.

Shootout described it well as the 1950-54 Tomcats All-Stars defeated the 1955-59 Tomcats, 116-109, on Monday night in sold-out Alumni Gymnasium with Earl Adkins, Bob Emrick and Jerry Henderson combining for 72 points in the first game of the best-of-3 series.

It was shown on My Town TV in Ashland after the game was declared a sellout and color analyst Chris Pullem lost his voice from excitedly screaming into the microphone three minutes into the second half and had to be replaced.

He wasn’t the only one feeling the effects of an All-Star event that had everybody on their feet.

“I’m exhausted from chasing Henderson up and down the floor,” said David Patton of the 55-59 Tomcats. “I was proud of our guys even though we came up a little short. That’s a lot of talent over there.”

Adkins scored 26, Emrick 24 and Henderson 22 in a game that featured offensive fireworks.

The 50-54 Tomcats came out firing, building a 31-15 lead by bombing in shots from everywhere. That early surge put the 55-59 Tomcats on the defensive and in a big hole.

“We fell behind there but bounced back pretty quickly,” said 55-59 coach Bob Lavoy. “I wondered for a few minutes there if they were going to blow us out. Our guys were on their heels. They were playing against their heroes, so I think that had something to do with it. Once they settled down, they played right with them.”

A large crowd showed up early at Ashland High School to watch the All-Star showdown of Tomcat greats from the 1950s. It was an electric atmosphere, with cheerleaders from both sides lining both end zones and not a folding chair remaining in the stage area, which it was a bit rowdy.

Up and down the floor they went with these talented Tomcats able to score almost at will.

“I love this brand of basketball,” said 50-54 coach George Conley. “These guys were there to play basketball. I knew it was going down to the wire and it did. I ran the legs off these guys getting ready for this series because I knew what it was going to be like.”

Conley’s brutal practices were made even tougher for his All-Stars, who complained privately of having “dead legs” following back-to-back sessions of four hours that was mostly running.

“No comment,” Adkins said when asked about the pregame preparation.

The second quarter belonged to the 55-59 Tomcats, who gradually gained some confidence outscored their opponent, 39-25, to trail only 56-54 at halftime.

Larry Castle scored 14 of his 25 points before intermission to ignite the effort to draw within a basket. George Carroll led the 50-54 Tomcats with 27 and Howard Humphreys collected 18 points and 15 rebounds.

“Those three guys gave us a lot of trouble,” Conley said. “We’re going to have to do something about them before the next game. What was Humphreys doing shooting 3-pointers? I don’t remember him having that kind of range.”

The 3-point shot is also in play for the Tomcat Shootout but only the 55-59 Tomcats took advantage of it, making 12 of 29 shots from long range. All of Patton’s 12 points came from the 3-point shot while Carroll also hit 3-of-6. Humphreys fell in love with the stripe, making 2-of-8 attempts.

“We embraced it,” Carroll said. “I think it can be a weapon for us. I just don’t want ‘Brother’ to start loving it for them. It’s like taking candy from a baby for him.”

Adkins and Emrick were each 1-for-2 from downtown and nobody else attempted a 3-pointer.

“I’m still not sure if that shot is a good one for us or not,” Conley said. “I know we have some shooters but we put up 116 points with only two of those dang 3-pointers. Hard to argue with that.”

It looked like the 50-54 Tomcats were going to coast to an easy victory, leading 98-83 when Squirt Jennings find an opening and drove in for a layup with 10:20 remaining in the game.

But the 55-59 All-Stars kept pecking away, trailing 99-90 at the 7:40 mark. However, seven consecutive points made it 99-97 and anybody’s game. Bill Kazee missed a 3-pointer that could have given them the lead when the shot, which looked dead on, spun out.

“Great comeback to get back in the game,” Lavoy said. “These guys showed that pride and heart of a Tomcat. The problem was, we were playing other guys with that same kind of spirit.”

Trailing 101-97, Castle scored six consecutive points to put the 55-59 Tomcats in front for the first time since the first quarter. He left Emrick flat-footed with a behind-the-back dribble and 15-footer leaner that he banked in.

The crowd erupted after the big move that put the underdog 55-59 Tomcats in front 103-101.

“No way he makes that move on me again,” Emrick said. “That was really something, wasn’t it? I didn’t know Larry had that in him.”

“That’s my teammate,” Humphreys said. “Larry is such a good ballplayer. He kept us in the game.”

The 50-54 Tomcats quickly recovered with a 15-footer from Emrick putting them ahead to stay at 107-105. John Eggleston, who had nine points and 12 rebounds, and Henderson wrapped it up with three consecutive free throws.

“I laid down on the floor in the dressing room after this game was over out of exhaustion,” Eggleston said. “I didn’t know how tough it was going to be and we have to beat them again. Those guys can play.”

In the other locker room, the 55-59 Tomcats were pondering what if and looked ahead to the next game in the series.

“I tell you what, I didn’t know if we could match up with them when they released the rosters,” Humphreys said. “I know better now. We can beat them.”

Game 2 will be played Tuesday night.

1950-54 ASHLAND (116) – Emrick 11-8 1-1 24, Adkins 10-24 5-6 26, Henderson 11-15 0-0 22, Gray 6-8 3-5 15,  Eggleston 4-9 1-2 9, Kouns 3-5 4-4 10, Lowe 0-0 1-2 1, Jennings 2-4 2-2 6, Rice 0-1 0-0 0, Jones 1-3 1-2 3. FG: 48-87. FT: 18-24. 3FG: 2-4 (Emrick 0-2, Adkins 0-2). Rebounds: 40 (Emrick 2, Adkins 2, Henderson 8, Gray 9, Eggleston 12, Kouns 3, Jennings 2). Assists: 26 (Emrick 7, Adkins 7, Henderson 2, Gray 3, Eggleston 2, Kouns 3, Rice 1). PF: 15. Turnovers: 9.

1955-1959 ASHLAND (109) – Carroll 11-24 2-3 27, Kazee 3-5 0-0 7,  Castle 10-26 3-3 25, Humphreys 6-16 4-4 18, Griffith 4-5 0-0 8, Patton 4-7 0-0 12, Meeks 2-2 0-0 4, Wright 2-3 9-9 4, Campbell 0-3 0-0 0, Church 2-5 0-0 4. FG: 44-96. FT: 9-10. 3FG: 12-29 (Carroll 3-6, Kazee 1-2, Castle 2-6, Humphreys 2-8, Patton 4-6, Wright 0-1). Rebounds: 45 (Carroll 3, Kazee 1, Castle 6, Humphreys 15, Griffith 9, Patton 4, Meeks 2, Wright 3, Campbell 2). Assists: 21 (Carroll 6, Kazee 2, Castle 6, Humphreys 1, Griffith 2, Patton 2, Campbell 2). PF: 17. Turnovers: 14.

1950-54 ASHLAND    31       25       38            22       –           116

1955-59 ASHLAND    15       39       27            28       –           109


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